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Qualcomm's brain-like processor is almost as smart as your dog

Sharif Sakr

Biological brains are sometimes overrated, but they're still orders of magnitude quicker and more power-efficient than traditional computer chips. That's why Qualcomm has been quietly funneling some of its prodigious income into a project called "Zeroth," which it hopes will one day give it a radical advantage over other mobile chip companies. According to Qualcomm's Matt Grob, Zeroth is a "biologically-inspired" processor that is modeled on real-life neurons and is capable of learning from feedback in much the same way as a human or animal brain does. And unlike some other so-called artifical intelligences we've seen, this one appears to work. The video after the break shows a Zeroth-controlled robot exploring an environment and then naturally adjusting its behavior in response not to lines of code, but to someone telling it whether it's being "good" or "bad."

"Everything here is biologically realistic: spiking neurons implemented in hardware on that actual machine."

Zeroth is advanced enough that Qualcomm says it's ready to work with other companies who want to develop applications to run on it. One particular focus is on building neural networks that will fit into mobile devices and enable them to learn from users who, unlike coders, aren't able or willing to instruct devices in the usual tedious manner. Grob even claims that, when a general-purpose Zeroth neural network is trained to do something specific, such as recognizing and tracking an object, it can already accomplish that task better than an algorithm designed solely for that function. Check out the source link to see Grob's full talk and more demo videos -- especially if you want to confirm your long-held suspicion that dogs are scarily good at math.

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